In Numbers 35 the law concerning the man slayer and cities of refuge was given. 

But here in v1-9 is the procedure for if a murder could not be solved.

1 If one be found slain in the land which Yahweh thy Elohim giveth thee to possess it, lying in the field, and it be not known who hath slain him:

2 Then thy elders and thy judges shall come forth, and they shall measure unto the cities which are round about him that is slain:

3 And it shall be, that the city which is next unto the slain man, even the elders of that city shall take an heifer, which hath not been wrought with, and which hath not drawn in the yoke;

4 And the elders of that city shall bring down the heifer unto a rough valley, which is neither eared nor sown, and shall strike off the heifer's neck there in the valley:

5 And the priests the sons of Levi shall come near; for them Yahweh thy Elohim hath chosen to minister unto him, and to bless in the name of Yahweh; and by their word shall every controversy and every stroke be tried:

6 And all the elders of that city, that are next unto the slain man, shall wash their hands over the heifer that is beheaded in the valley:

7 And they shall answer and say, Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it.

8 Be merciful, O Yahweh, unto thy people Israel, whom thou hast redeemed, and lay not innocent blood unto thy people of Israel's charge. And the blood shall be forgiven them. 

Blood, we see, was as abhorrent to God who dwelt in the Land, as corruption in the Camp in which He walked. The parallel is too exact to be without significance. We know that in the case of the Camp corruption was a symbol of sin: so we can safely conclude the same to have been true of shed blood in the case of the Land. It is not difficult to find the reason why it came to have this symbolic value.

Sin (as the story of Eden proved conclusively) is a killer, visiting death on those in its power. A murderer, therefore, merely hastened Sin's inexorable work in man, and brought his victim all the quicker into the clutches of the dread enemy death. In killing another he ranged himself on Sin's side, and acted as Sin's agent.

In the judgment of the Law he did this so effectively as actually to become a personification of Sin, and was treated as such in its symbolism.

Law and Grace Ch 11

The Red Heifer anti type - The innocent blood

Firstly, his death was necessary for the redemption of mankind, and therefore it was in accordance with

"the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God".

But, at the same time, it was an act of wickedness on the part of Jewry's leaders - Acts 2: 23, who are denounced as the "betrayers and murderers" of the Just One - Acts 7:52.

... Judas admitted that "innocent blood" had been betrayed - Matt. 27:4, and Pilate washed his hands before the assembled accusers saying,

"I am innocent of the blood of this just person" - Matt. 27:24.

But they cried,

"His blood be on us, and on our children" - Matt. 27: 25.

In that terrible exclamation they accepted responsibility for the death of the Lord, on the basis that he had been legitimately executed on a charge of blasphemy. Figuratively they

"washed their hands"

of responsibility for putting an innocent person to death. Nevertheless, the accusation of murder was laid at the feet of the elders of Jerusalem by the Apostles - 2:23; 3:13-17; 4:10; 5:30; 7:52; 13:28. The leaders of Jerusalem recognised the seriousness of the charge laid against them.

"Ye intend to bring this man's blood upon us",

they declared - Acts 5: 28. Because they refused to accept the Lord as a sin-offering, and continue to do so to this day, he remains to them as the heifer representing the victim whose violent death is unredeemed. By their own confession, both nation and city were guilty of the crime, and were given over to death, as predicted by the Lord - Luke 21: 24.

A new nation will arise that will acknowledge its sin in relation to the Lord, and to it and to Jerusalem there will be opened up a fountain for the cleansing of "sin and for uncleanness" - Zech. 13: 1. The murder that currently remains unsolved will then be revealed for what it is, and so provide the basis for the future redemption of Israel.

This requires that the nation acknowledge the gravity of the crime committed against the Lord at his first advent, as well as the justice of the punishment administered in giving it over to political death. On the basis of that acknowledgement a sacrifice will be provided for the redemption of the nation.

Meanwhile, as the slain heifer only publicly dramatised the crime without providing a means of redemption, so the disbelief of Israel in recognising the significance of the nation's guilt of murder, remains a barrier to the carrying of it away.

The Christadelphian Expositor

9 So shalt thou put away the guilt of innocent blood [dahm naki] from among you, when thou shalt do that which is right in the sight of Yahweh.

 'So ye shall not pollute HaAretz [land] wherein ye are; for dahm [blood] pollutes HaAretz; and kapporah [cleansing] cannot be made for HaAretz for the shefach dahm [ blood that is shed] therein, except by the dahm [blood] of him that committed shefach dahm (shedding of blood)' Num (35:33).

Defile [ make not tameh] therefore the land [HaAretz] which ye shall inhabit, wherein I dwell: for I Yahweh dwell among the children of Israel [Bnei Yisroel]. (Num 35:34)


A grievous complication arose when, with all the good intention in the world, the authorities sought to bring the miscreant to book but could not identify or trace him because the crime had been unobserved. The rule still held good-"blood it defileth the land": unhappily it could not be cleansed on this occasion by "the blood of him that shed it".

To allow for, this, and to enable the nation to disown the crime and thereby fulfil the "allegorical purpose of the murder laws, a special ritual was devised. For simplicity (and justifiably in most cases) the murderer was presumed to be someone from the nearest city. This was represented by its elders; while they, in turn, stood not only for the city but also for the nation as a whole on the familiar principle of representation which we find so often in operation in the Law.

The elders had to take

"an heifer which hath not been wrought with and which hath not drawn the yoke" (Deut. 21 : 1-3).

They were then to bring the heifer to an unfrequented and uncultivated dell through which ran a brook, and there break its neck in the presence of "the priests the sons of Levi". (The latter doubtless came from the nearest Levitical city, and in the ritual clearly symbolized God as a witness to the transactions.)

The R.V. makes it clear that the heifer was in no sense a sacrifice ver. 6, "whose neck was broken").

Its blood was not drawn off or manipulated in any way. It was killed by the simple breaking of its neck.

What then was its function? We can at once conclude that it did not symbolize the murderer from the fact that it had to be a virgin animal and unused to the yoke, i.e., a perfect symbol of purity and innocence.

It must therefore have stood for the victim.

The latter had not been sinless in the absolute sense so there was no insistence that the heifer should be 'without blemish" as in the case of an atoning sacrifice. Yet his untimely death had been unjust and undeserved. To allow for his innocence in this respect the animal prescribed to typify him had to be a virgin cow.

If the heifer represented the victim its death must have represented his murder. Every aspect of the ceremonial confirms the accuracy of this view. The crime had been unobserved and for that reason the criminal had been able to flee unnoticed and escape his just deserts. In keeping with that fact a deserted spot had to be chosen as the site for the special ceremony prescribed in such cases. There the heifer was to be suddenly struck down as the victim himself had been. Then, as it lay there dead, the elders had to protest their Innocence on behalf of the City and nation as a whole.

This they did ritually by washing their hands over the carcase in water from the brook, and orally by disowning all responsibility for the crime, with the Levites (i.e., God) as witness. The Levites, hearing the elders appeal to God for the merciful pardon of the nation whom He had redeemed, doubtless concluded the ceremony by declaring the sin forgiven (so far as the innocent were concerned) and pronouncing the blessing which they were qualified (as types of God) to give "in the name of the Lord" (Deut. 21 : 5). The stream was perhaps regarded as symbolically bearing the nation's guilt away in its purifying waters.

The murder laws thus had a transparently didactic purpose. They most effectively taught how defiling and dangerous was the presence of sin and of sinners in the midst of the nation; Their lesson did not stop short at the execution of literal murderers but was infinitely wider in its scope. In all things, in fact, they were to heed God's warning,

" Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit wherein I dwell: for I the Lord dwell among the children of Israel"

Law and Grace Ch 11

10 When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and Yahweh thy Elohim hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive,

11 And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife;

12 Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house; and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails;

13 And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife.

14 And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her.

Was she free to be another man's wife?

15 If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have born him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son be hers that was hated:

16 Then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, which is indeed the firstborn:

17 But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his.

18 If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:

19 Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;

20 And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.

21 And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

22 And if a man [ish] have committed a sin [chet] worthy of death [mishpat mavet], and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree [etz]:

The uncleaness of sin's flesh means death is required, even in the morally sinless Yahoshua.

23 His body [nevelah] shall not remain all night upon the tree [etz], but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged [talui] is accursed [Kilelat - under curse] of elohim;) that thy land [adamah] be not defiled, which the Yahweh thy elohim giveth thee for an inheritance [nachalah].

Not remain all night upon the tree - as the Lord's shame was also cut short - he was not suspended on the tree all night.

The relation of the Jews to eternal life as individuals and to the everlasting possession of Canaan in blessedness and peace as a nation, is manifest. They are circumcised and therefore bound to keep the whole law; by which law they seek to be justified. But how vain and impossible is their enterprize! The Law says,

"Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do thern" (Deut. 27:26); and so unexceptional is this sentence, that it even cursed the Lord Jesus saying, Cursed is every one that hangeth upon a tree" (Deut. 21:23; and in this way He was made a curse for men (Gal.3:13).

Now, the law teaches, that without the shedding of blood their is no remission of sins, and prescribes certain sacrifices which must be offered upon an altar in Jerusalem, and there only. To say nothing of other impossible things, these offerings, which are indispensable, the Jews neither do nor can, present.

These are things, then, they do not continue in, and therefore they are cursed by the law, and condemned by Moses, in whom they trust. They are under the sentence of death, and of eternal exclusion from all inheritance in Canaan and the world. They may possibly believe in the promise made to Abraham, that God will give the land to him and the Christ; but they deny that Jesus is the person named in the will, which is tantamount to rejecting the covenant itself.

Elpis Israel 2.2.